Congressional District 12 Hopefuls Face Off At Candidates’ Forum

CD-12 candidates' forum2

Candidates vying for the 12th Congressional seat appeared at a forum sponsored by the Somerset Run Civics Club. Pictured left to right are: Democrats Andrew Zwicker, State Sen. Linda Greenstein, State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, State. Assemblywoman. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Republican Dr. Aleita Eck.

The five candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) tried to show why they should do just that at a candidates’ forum May 29 sponsored by the Somerset Run Civics Club.

Holt, an 8-term Congressman, decided earlier this year to not seek re-election.

That opened the door for Democrats in this Democrat-leaning district: state Assembly members Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) – a former Township Councilman and Mayor – and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer); state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Middlesex) and Andrew Zwicker, a political newcomer who, like Holt, is a Princeton University physicist.

On the Republican side, Dr. Aleita Eck – also a Franklin resident with a practice in Piscataway and who runs the Zarephath Health Clinic – is running unopposed in the primary. Eck was crushed by Conservative activist Steve Lonegan in last year’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat, which opened when Sen. Frank Lautenberg died.

The primary is June 3.

The five gathered at a long table in the Somerset Run Clubhouse Ballroom, before a crowd of about 150 people. Stephen Levine, the club’s president, said he invited residents at the other three active adult communities in the township: Renaissance, Canal Walk and Sterling Pointe.

The candidates were supplied with a list of questions prior to the event, Levine said. Each was allowed to make an opening statement, then given two minutes to answer the questions.

The four Democrats did not differ in their stances on topics such as creating jobs, raising the federal minimum wage, infrastructure issues, Social Security, repealing the Affordable Care Act, investing in science and technology and support for Israel: they all said education was a key in creating new jobs, supported hiking the minimum wage, supported the government investing in new and replacing roads and bridges, supported keeping Social Security as it is and raising the income cap for its contributions, supported the ACA and investing in science and technology and supported Israel.

In disagreeing with her potential opponents, Eck maintained that the Affordable Care Act is doing more harm than good and is actually killing jobs, said raising the minimum wage would cost more jobs than it creates, supported privatizing Social Security. She said that doing away with some taxes – such as personal, payroll and estate, among others – and replacing the with a “Fair Tax” would free more money for uses such as investing in infrastructure.

Eck also came down on the side of those who argue that humans are not the main cause of climate change, a stand disputed by her Democratic opponents.

Watson-Coleman and Greenstein argued that their legislative careers prepared them for the challenges that would be faced in Washington, D.C., while Chivukula said his greatest strength would be his experiences gained from being born in India and traveling the world.

Zwicker argued that with two of the main issues facing the country being climate change and challenges posed by improvements in science and technology, New Jersey needs to send another scientist to Washington.

Eck said that she is a scientist, too, and that as a doctor, she could play a role in repealing the ACA and in creating a health care system that would work better for Americans.



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